Congressional Republicans may not celebrate the passage of the tax bill at the inside-the-Beltway equivalent of the Bada Bing, but Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall nonetheless likens them to some notable patrons of that fictional North Jersey strip club.
"The absolute need to pass something and to pass it fast led to a legislative process which was akin to driving the truck up to the loading bay and just taking everything. Looting. Or perhaps a mob bust-out," wrote Marshall on Tuesday. "One episode of The Sopranos…was based on the 'bust out' idea. A guy got into debt to Tony. So Tony and his crew took over his business, started ordering goods that they’d then fence for cash…When they couldn’t squeeze anything more out of it they burned it down to collect the insurance money. News late last week…that Paul Ryan will likely retire at the end of this Congress completes the tale. Take the money and run."
Marshall remarked that Republicans "could have done right-leaning tax reform -- basically, a revenue-neutral rooting out of distorting or unmerited tax loopholes and exemptions which are matched with a lowering of nominal rates," or "they could have done a straight up big tax cut," but "they didn’t really do either," because policy, and the well-being of America, just aren't how they roll:
The cornerstone of contemporary Republican politics is a posture of reclamation and revenge, people who feel they are on the losing end of history and want to call a stop to what’s happening. This doesn’t lead to a forward-looking politics. On the cultural side of the equation, the voting strength of the GOP, it’s a politics that wants to reclaim things that were lost. On the elite/money side, the inevitable companion of this sort of political pessimism is the desire to cash in while there’s still time.
…The big picture is one of political pessimism and desperation leading to a public policy of generalized looting. That’s the story of this bill. Tax cuts are the driving force of elite Republican politics. The lack of a bill was demoralizing the donor class, driving down contributions. 2018 looks bad but with literally no major legislative accomplishments to show, maybe it gets even worse. So you need to pass something. Where do you get the votes? Sell them. Every man and woman for himself. Everybody take a few appliances out of the store before we burn it down. That’s the story of this bill. It doesn’t even add up in conservative policy terms. It’s really just a heist. Organized looting.
Also on Tuesday, Vox's Matthew Yglesias called the tax bill the "linchpin" of Republicans' "looting agenda" and argued that President Trump and Paul Ryan "have completely dissolved the norm against dishonesty to the point where there are no longer any whistleblowers in the Republican caucus or the world of conservative media. You just say whatever you want, and dole out favors to your friends -- moving at such a rapid pace that the country’s ability to process what’s happening gets overwhelmed."
According to Yglesias,
moral and political responsibility for the looting ultimately rests on the shoulders of the GOP members of Congress who decided that the appropriate reaction to Trump’s inauguration was to start smashing and grabbing as much as possible for themselves and their donors rather than uphold their constitutional obligations.
But it really is true that in this case, the fish rots from the head…
Trump’s victory, rather than inspiring a bipartisan movement to check the new president’s worst impulses, caused the party to snap, with as many factions as possible reaching to toss a rock and grab what they can as long as the party lasts.